BILLERICA, Mass. (AP) _ For 9-year-old Jill Delorey, the answer to giving up television viewing for a week was more homework.
″That’s why I asked for more than usual,″ explained the fifth-grade student, who was one of 800 elementary school youngsters to stop watching television as a Muscular Dystrophy Association fund-raiser.
Students collected pledges for the time they stayed away from the TV set. They raised more than $17,500, far exceeding the goal of $6,000, said Arthur Levine, 27, of Beverly, coordinator of the ″TV Busters″ program for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
″General Hospital″ addict Barbie Jo Zarella, 11, fled to a friend’s house and worked on a report on the state of Alaska when her mother, Barbara, tuned in the soap opera.
Anthony Bossy 3rd, a second-grader, took no chances with his family. He placed a sign reading ″NO TV″ across the family television screen and unplugged the set.
″No permanent damage,″ said Anthony Bossi Jr., 38, a television sports fan who joined his son in tuning out television from May 5 to May 11 during the fund-raiser. ″We survived. I’m not sure how.″
His son earned $409 for the charity by persuading relatives, friends and neighbors to pay him sums ranging from a quarter to $1 for each day he abstained from watching.
Totals were announced and prizes distributed Thursday night in the Billerica Memorial High School lecture hall.
Anthony’s sum, the highest collected by any student, won the Bossi family an expenses-paid trip to Washington and a chance to appear on Boston-area television during the Labor Day Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon.
Barbie Jo Zarella’s essay on her experience during the week won her a giant trophy.
″When I heard about ’TV Busters,‴ Barbie Jo wrote, ″I said to myself, ‘I’d go crazy seven days without TV’ ... Anyone in Boston who doesn’t have season tickets ... to the Celtics would go NUTS 3/8 But I made it.″
While she had difficulty abstaining from watching the Celtics in the National Basketball Association playoffs, she got little help from her mother, Barbara, who started abstaining with the whole family, then faltered.
″I can’t miss my soap operas,″ she said. ″I lasted two days.″
Families in Billerica, a growing town of 37,000 in the middle of Masachusetts’s expanding high-technology belt, discovered during the blackout the impact television has on their lives, said Roberta Breen, a high school English teacher, judge in the essay contest, and mother of six.
During the contest week, she ran a TV busting household.
″There was a silence in the house,″ she said. ″Daily life slowed down - beneficially. You don’t realize how life is tied to the half hour and hour with television. When I called the kids, they heard me. Life was less nerve- racking. The tenor of the house was quiet and peace.″
She spoke after the meeting ended, in time for everybody to go home to watch the Celtics play the Los Angeles Lakers on television.